At the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, you will choose a single Core Course of study—Poetry, Fiction, or Creative Writing (a survey that includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction)—as your focus for the two weeks of the program.
After you’re accepted to the program, you’ll have the opportunity to look over several course descriptions and pick one depending on what, and with whom, you would like to study.
The Poetry course will explore voice, image, metaphor, line, language, and other aspects of this most condensed form. If you love writing poetry and want to focus on it exclusively and intensely, with a disciple’s devotion, in a small tribe of fellow poets, this is the course for you.
If the short story or novel is your thing, then consider the Fiction course. By focusing on challenges particular to fiction, such as establishing and deepening characters, writing dialogue, using stream of consciousness and interior monologue, working with 1st and 3rd and multiple points of view, managing plot and the passage of time, and creating a vivid setting, this course will help aspiring fiction writers gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the genre and make huge strides in their craft.
Because of the scope of the class, which spans the three major genres of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, the Creative Writing course concentrates on those elements of writing that are universal: language, image, voice/point of view, structure/story, setting, character. The Creative Writing course is a great choice for you if your work already bridges multiple genres or if you want the freedom to explore new forms. Sometimes Creative Writing courses are weighted toward one particular genre or theme—science fiction and fantasy, for instance—to give students the opportunity to deepen their focus.
Course Structure: Seminars & workshops
No matter what course you choose for your two weeks at the Studio, your classes will be small, 12 or fewer students. Each course is divided into a seminar component and a workshop component. The same instructor teaches both.
To write, you must read. This is a bit like saying, To sing, you must listen, or To cook, you must eat. A person is unlikely to become good at one without continually engaging in the other. One of the goals of the Studio is that our students understand their place in a literary tradition that goes back in time in a variety of directions through a variety of genres, encompassing authors as diverse as Sappho and Chekhov, Woolf and Dickinson, George Saunders and Alice Munro. Students can forget about stuffy English classes. Our instructors design their seminars around books and stories and poems they love, that taught or amazed them, that they want to share. The emphasis of these classes is for students to read as writers. Published work will be scrutinized for what can be gleaned about craft: how a writer achieved a particular effect or result, how a writer astonished or moved you. All seminars will include a broad range of readings: stories, short shorts, novel excerpts, essays, and poems. Of course fiction writers will read more fiction, poets will read more poetry, and in the creative writing class students will read everything. Instructors tailor their seminars “on the go” to fit their students’ interests and concerns, adjusting the syllabus to include selections that illuminate issues or problems that arise from student work.
Every writing program offers some variation of the workshop. It’s the only way a writer can get direct feedback from his or her readers. Workshopping is not writing by committee. Instead, constructive criticism helps a writer know how his or her work is perceived and helps the writer adjust strategies and approaches to improve and strengthen the work. The text for this class is the writing of your workshop classmates, although readings and ideas from your seminar will come into play. Workshop inevitably precipitates in-depth, thoughtful meditations on what it is that writers do. A workshop gets its personality from the people who participate in it. At the Young Writers’ Studio, our instructors ensure that workshops present a supportive environment in which each student is encouraged to give thoughtful, thorough commentary to their peers in exchange for the same.